Architecture Criticism

POP / CAN / CRIT: Current Conditions in Popular Canadian Architecture Criticism is a public architecture event that investigated the contemporary conditions of architecture criticism in Canada. The symposium brought together 12 of Canada’s leading critical architectural voices, and saw both invited speakers and those in attendance discuss and debate the current state, effectiveness, and future potentials of a professional criticism intended for the general public. As such, the symposium explored the public, professional, and academic conversations surrounding criticism today, as well as broadening its public audience and understanding. The symposium was an unprecedented occasion within Canada, bringing together the best in Canadian criticism to discuss the state of criticism itself.


Symposium Details

Date: Friday, October 21, 2016

Venue: Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

Speakers + Guests


Shawn Micallef 

Spacing, senior editor

Instagram: @shawnmicallef
Twitter: @shawnmicallef


Christopher Hume

Former Toronto Star urban affairs critic



Ian Chodikoff

Architect and urban designer

Instagram: @chodikoff


David Theodore

McGill University School of Architecture, assistant professor, architecture writer


Lisa Rochon

architecture critic, author, design strategist

Instagram: @rochon_lisa


Sophie Gironnay

Maison de Architecture Critic

Facebook: @MaisonArchitectureQuebec


Rhys Phillips

Building and Canadian Interiors, associate editor

Instagram: @architecture_critic


Marco Polo

Ryerson University Department of Architectural Science, associate professor

Instagram: @Ryersondas


Alex Bozikovic

Globe + Mail, architecture critic

Instagram: @globeandmail 


Elsa Lam

Canadian Architect, editor-in-chief

Instagram: @CanadianArchitect


Trevor Boddy

Architecture Curator, critic and consultant

Instagram: @trevboddy


Maria Cook

Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, manager, communications and advocacy

Instagram: @RAIC_IRAC
Twitter: @RAIC_IRAC

Panel Topics

Panel 1: Everyone’s a Critic: Democratization / Popularization / Critical Authority / Crisis
This panel will explore the assertion that with the opening up of avenues for publishing and promoting of individual opinions/critiques through digital media, the authority of the professional newspaper critic has been called into crisis. It will ask the question: If everyone is a critic, on what grounds should specific opinions or ideas be valued? It will also look at the role of the public in today's architecture criticism.

Panel 2: Lines Between: Academic / Popular Criticism (dividing lines / divided audiences)
This panel will examine the lines and divisions placed between academic and mainstream criticism in architecture, within the context of Ronan McDonald’s claim in The Death of the Critic that the gap is increasingly growing between the two. It will ask the questions: In what ways can this division be bridge? And, what are the consequential outcomes if it is not?

Panel 3: New Media: The Role of Social Media, E-Publishing, + Blogs in Popular Criticism
This panel will respond to the contemporary context of digital media, and its impact / influence on popular criticism. Critics currently utilizing social and new media platforms will explain the shortcomings and potentials these new forms of communication can allow the critic, as well as address the questions they raise for ‘Architecture criticism in the age of Twitter’ (Paul Goldberger).

Panel 4: Criticism Looking Backwards: Criticism as an Ongoing Process / Re-evaluation
This panel will explore the potential of an architecture criticism that not only responds to contemporary projects (often written before the building is open to the public or ‘lived in’), but rather returns to projects years, or even decades later – at a time when a more reflective and insightful judgement or understanding can be made. While this is commonplace within academic studies and texts, this is not currently generally a part of the public’s relationship to architecture or architecture criticism.

Panel 5: Case Study: Mirvish + Gehry Toronto – The Critical Response
As a case study that involves many of the issues noted above, the Mirvish+Gehry Toronto project will be explored in regards to the critical response it received. Unprecedented for a Canadian project not yet built, the immense and divided professional and public reaction it created resulted in a greatly extended approval process, and extensively refined design. What is of greatest interest is that while the majority of the professional critical response to the project was either balanced or in favour of the project (three critics of which will be on the panel), the journalistic, public, and City’s responses out weighed the authority of the specialized reviewer. This panel will ask the questions: For what reasons was the professional critic mostly marginalized? Were the critics’ responses justified? And in what ways was the public response responsible for the final design?

Roundtable: The Future of Popular Architecture Criticism in Canada
The final roundtable session with focus on the hopes and ideals for the future of popular architecture criticism in Canada, with attention paid to the relationship between the public and architecture. How we can move from where the profession currently stands to where it needs to be in order to remain vital, will also be addressed.

Sponsors + Supporters

Funding Support


Presenting Partners

Event Partners

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

Bronze Sponsors


Media + Promotion

Event Poster

Download the 2016 Symposium Poster.

POP // CAN // CRIT 2016 Video by Joviss Photography


Spacing Radio documented POP / CAN / CRIT 2016 and produced a two-part podcast. You can subscribe to Spacing radio on iTunes or Soundcloud or listen directly from this page.


Article in Canadian Architect Magazine by Editor-in-Chief, Elsa Lam.

Article in Building Magazine by Rhys Phillips.